Voters will decide in November whether to approve the recommended spending of the lodging tax on trails and the Yampa River Promenade.

Photo by Scott Franz

Voters will decide in November whether to approve the recommended spending of the lodging tax on trails and the Yampa River Promenade.

Trails Alliance and downtown stakeholders plan joint campaign for lodging tax

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— The Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance and the proponents of a new promenade on Yampa Street will soon launch a unified campaign to promote their projects for the lodging tax.

Voters here will decide in November whether the city should spend millions of dollars of the tax revenue on both projects for the next decade.

If the ballot measure is approved, the tax revenue would be split evenly between the trails and the downtown amenity until the promenade received $900,000, likely after three years. The remainder of the funds up to $600,000 each year would be used on trail projects that range from an extension of the Yampa River Core Trail to dirt trails on Emerald Mountain.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity to do a lot of improvements and community enhancements,” Bike Town USA President David Scully said Tuesday.

Scully is serving as the spokesman of the campaign committee that includes downtown stakeholders, members of the Trails Alliance and support from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

He said the campaign called Yes to 2A for Trails and Yampa River Park soon will be accepting financial contributions and launching a website.

Bullet point No. 1 for the campaign is ensuring that voters know the lodging tax is not a new tax and that voting "yes" on 2A won’t put a new financial burden on residents, Scully said.

“The second thing is this is a tax generated by lodging revenue and paid for by visitors who are coming to our community,” he said.

The campaign then will focus on educating the public about the new amenities that will be supported by the tax.

The ballot language approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council last month was labeled as a compromise by the members who wanted to find a way to fund both of the top ideas that were vetted extensively for more than a year by a lodging tax committee.

The committee recommended that 90 percent of the tax go to the trails projects for a decade and that the rest go to reserves and capital needs at Haymaker Golf Course. But the council moved away from that recommendation by including funding for the promenade on the ballot.

Leading proponents of both proposals acknowledge neither side is getting all of the funding they first sought.

But both sides still see great potential from the slice of the lodging tax they can secure in November.

Chris Paoli, one of the planners of the Yampa River promenade, said the $900,000 commitment would go a long way toward purchasing a vacant lot at Seventh and Yampa streets and turning it into a park.

The parcel is a centerpiece of the plan to add a 16- to 24-foot-wide sidewalk on Yampa and provide more public access to the river.

“That is probably the one piece that has the highest sense of urgency,” he said about the parcel. “We think it would benefit all of us.”

He said the group is confident it could leverage other funding sources to complete the promenade.

On the trails side of the equation, the lodging tax could be used in the early years as matching funds for a grant worth more than $1 million that could help extend the Yampa River Core Trail to Legacy Ranch.

The entire plan submitted by the Trails Alliance includes a diverse portfolio of projects for multiple types of trail users.

The City Council has said a steering committee will be formed to oversee the distribution of the lodging tax on the projects.

Community members can learn more about the projects at www.yampariverpromenade.com and www.steamboatspringstrails.com.

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Comments

Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

I think the idea of committing funding for 10 years makes no sense. What if trails prove to be far less popular than expected? We keep funding building more trails? What if something else comes up in the next 10 years as clearly being more important to tourists? We ignore that important need until the 10 years is up?

The only reason to have a vote committing funding for 10 years is if there is a bond issue in order to commit the funding to repaying the bonds. We have been told that there will be no such bonds.

There is absolutely no reason why funding cannot be planned and approved on a yearly basis. The road map of making the main priority spending on trails has been set after a lot of meetings. There is no need to revisit all that every year, but neither do we need to say that decision cannot be reconsidered for the next 10 years.

I will be voting against this measure.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

There are some advantages committing to trails for more than one year at a time (1) BLM & USFS: Long term funding ensures that if land managers put resources in they will not go to waste because council changes their mind before the trail is 100% approved. The approval process will vary for different trails and most if not all will be planned one year and the built the following year. (2) A number of the proposed projects could not be completed with funding decided by council in one year. Dirt trails could be phased, but nobody wants a trail to nowhere if funding is cut the next year by council. (3) True popular biking destinations did not happen overnight. Good trails become popular with the "die hard bikers" and then "the masses" show up. I only bring up the biking because I am more familiar with that trail user and how they travel. The trails proposal will benefit all trail users.

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John Fielding 7 months, 1 week ago

I still have not seen the actual ballot language, but my impression is that a "no" vote will send the issue back to the council. It is a pity that in that case it will not really be clear exactly what was so objectionable.

There have been numerous concerns raised, but most center around the length of the commitment. Others wonder about the ability to adjust priorities in the trail building project, I have been lobbied both by proponents of single track and those who would spend it mainly on core trail. Exactly how will that be determined? Several thoughtful proponents of Old town revitalization have suggested the portion dedicated to Yampa Street is a drop in the bucket and may impact other efforts to fund improvements there. And some of the most significant have been from those who continue to back different uses for the fund.

Given all those reasonable concerns, I have to be reluctant to commit for a ten year term, Five with an option to renew by a simple council vote seems more prudent. But the action is not beyond recall by the very process that authorizes it in the first place. However it would be very divisive to the community to have to vote to revoke in light of some future dissatisfaction with the results or recognition of great opportunity or pressing need.

The concern that defeated the 700 annexation was too big a commitment at once. If I was on the trails committee I would ask for less to be sure to get something.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

Those involved with the idea turned proposal, described a committee made up of city personal, land managers, lodging interests and trail users. This committee would be tasked with refining the proposed projects final design, funding and timing. Currently no committee has been established. I and a number of others continue to volunteer our time to help the city maximize this and other funding sources through grants like the Bell Built Grant that Routt County Riders, a chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, successfully competed for and won this past Spring in a highly contested national contest. Stop by the Bear River Bike Park to see the progress.

The ballot language is set. We did our best to inform the committee and council while involving the public through out this year and a half long process.

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John Fielding 7 months, 1 week ago

Just to be perfectly clear, I think both projects are worthy and would commit to funding them for a reasonable period of time, I just think ten years is too long.

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Pat West 7 months, 1 week ago

I thought the Haymaker bonds took 10 years to retire, and that is why the new projects are funded for 10 years.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

I am pretty sure that the Haymaker project has taken 19 years to complete and was done in two phases (golf coarse & then clubhouse), but don't remember where that came from. Likely one of the many Accommodations Tax committee meetings I attended.

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

Haymaker was paid by bonds that did get paid off and so freed up the accommodations tax revenues for other uses.

There is no practical reason why these projects are proposed to be financed for 10 years. They could have just as easily decided to finance these proposed projects for 3 or 20 years.

There is very limited ability for one city council to commit the next city council to continue spending on a program. That is as it should be. It allows the next city council to fix the mistakes of a previous city council. But that does not mean that each year's budget is rewritten from scratch. Most programs at their current levels. No reason that accommodations tax cannot be spent like that.

It seems crazy to me to commit to a 10 year spending program and largely remove the ability to stop spending it if it turns out to being wasted.

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cindy constantine 7 months, 1 week ago

During debates for District 1 this will be an important question to ask the candidates. I will also be interested in how Scott Ford feels about this issue. Tourists are attracted to the Yampa Valley for a lot more than just the trails and river so 10 years is too long a commitment. Doesn't Council have the ability to look at budgeting the accommodation tax every year? Can't it be used for maintenance of the existing City amenities that also attract tourists including Rodeo grounds, ice rink, tennis, golf, baseball fields, etc? Seems to me those existing amenities should be kept in tip top shape with accommodation tax freeing up infrastructure $$ from sales tax collection to complete deferred needs like sewer, water, bridge, streets, burying utility lines etc.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

I believe the council has the ability to budget the accommodations tax every year without going to vote. There are pluses and minuses for that route.

The original ballot language does not appear to me that it can be used for maintenance and that point was discussed in detail during the Accommodations Tax committees meetings: http://www.steamboatspringstrails.com/the-proposal-overview

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Scott Ford 7 months, 1 week ago

Hi Cindy – I think in an effort to get the 2nd reading of the proposed ballot language regarding the use of the 1% accommodation tax – done on time so that it could appear on the November ballot -resulted in language that from my perspective is a tough read. Here is how it reads:

(A) THE FIRST $600,000.00 OF TAX REVENUES TO BE SPLIT ON A 50%-50% BASIS BETWEEN (I) THE DEVELOPMENT OF TRAILS IN AND AROUND THE CITY AND (II) IMPROVEMENTS TO YAMPA STREET, UNTIL THE TOTAL ALLOCATION TO THE IMPROVEMENTS ON YAMPA STREET REACHES $900,000.00, THERAFTER 100% OF THE FIRST $600,000.00 OF TAX REVENUES SHALL BE SPENT ON DEVELOPMENT OF TRAILS; (B) THE NEXT $60,000.00 OF TAX REVENUES TO BE SPLIT ON A 50%-50% BASIS BETWEEN (I) MARKETING OF THE TOURIST RELATED IMPROVEMENTS CONSTRUCTED WITH TAX REVENUES AND (II) RESERVES FOR THE HAYMAKER GOLF COURSE; AND (C) ANY TAX REVENUES IN EXCESS OF $660,000.00 SHALL BE SPENT AT THE DISCRETION OF CITY COUNCIL ON PROJECTS AUTHORIZED BY THE 1986 PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS TAX BALLOT QUESTION.

This is the language that will appear on the ballot. It is what individual voters of the City will sort out by indicating either “YES” or “NO”. I am willing to let this part of the process play itself out and decide next steps after the vote.

I, however, have a general rule of thumb when it comes to understandability. If something can be explained to a 7th grader so that they understand it well enough to be able to explain the important elements to an entire class of 7th graders – it passes my understandability test. Does anyone have a 7th grader in their household who want to give this a try and report back to us their results?

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

I agree that it is now up to the voters. Having two projects in one vote will make it almost impossible to determine why the vote passed or failed. If I was in charge and this ballot measure does not pass, I would fall back to the public process that ended with a recommendation not once but twice from the Accommodations Tax committee, but that is me and I am a bit biased.

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

Well, reading that is less a test of a person's reading skills and more of a test of a person's mathematical skills at understanding logical expressions. I suspect Scott F and I both find that sort of expression pretty easy to decipher.

Though, that wording shows yet another problem with the ballot measure. That revenues above $660,000 are to be allocated by the city council. Well, that number looks to be exceeded this year so even next year the city council will be tasked with spending accommodation tax revenue.

With even modest inflation and economic growth then soon enough the city council will still have to be deciding how to spend a substantial amount of accommodations tax. But while making that annual decision, they won't be allowed to consider how $660,000 is being spent.

This ballot measure is seeking to remove accountability for the spending of $660,000 a year for 10 years. Usually voters are asked to increase accountability, not remove it.

So then Trails Alliance to handle this money could easily decide to switch from a volunteer organization to having paid staff. And suddenly, $600,000K is not being spent on trails by a popular volunteer organization, but it is being siphoned off by paid staff with a cozy relationship with excavation companies.

Seems to me that Trails Alliance is taking a big risk for no reason. By strongly supporting the ballot measure then if it doesn't pass then it will be questioned whether the public wants to spend money on trails. I think it would be far smarter for Trails Alliance to say they don't care about the ballot measure. That is wasn't their idea for a ballot measure for 10 years of funding and they would be happy seeking annual funding. That they are confident in their popularity and ability to do a good job and thus will win annual funding.

Thus, Trails Alliance could say they do not care whether the ballot measure passes or fails. Which would make the election a vote on the mechanism for funding trails.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

I totally agree that there will likely be extra funds on an annual basis that city council will be able to spend as they see fit (still must adhere to the original ballot language). This amount could be even larger than the $660,000/year being decided in the Nov ballot language. This can be viewed as a problem or a way to fund something that becomes an immediate need that has no funding source (open space land purchases do come to mind. Open space clearly is VERY high on this communities list of wants). It all depends on how the council at the time of the likely surplus handles it.

To be clear, the organisations associated with the trails alliance are not requesting money from the accommodations tax. We have suggested that the city distributes it to the land managers to put out to bid (which is required by most if not all projects that include grant funding). The natural surface trails projects have a huge benefit over many other ideas that were presented in this process do to the fact that volunteers can help build and maintain them. People should understand that the more you rely on volunteers the longer it will take to get a marketable product on the ground. There will need to be a balance of paid and volunteer effort to maximize the natural surface trail projects. To my knowledge, all other ideas submitted would have had no volunteer involvement in their construction). It is unlikely the local excavation companies will greatly benefit from the natural surface trails projects. It is much harder to teach and excavator to build a natural surface trail than teach a trail builder to run equipment designed to build trails. This would likely not be the case on the core trail and in town projects which will likely be completed by excavation companies experienced in those types of projects.

I am personally spending my time informing people of the process, the benefit of the natural surface trails projects and making sure those projects are fully designed and approved if funding becomes available.

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Mark Ruckman 7 months ago

My test is how many times do I have to read something to understand it, 1 time worked in this case.

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John Fielding 7 months ago

If one reads it deliberately enough for each component to be appreciated it is comprehensible.

Scott, do you have the rest of the language handy to share? This must be only an excerpt. I don't see where the 10 year term is indicated. What is the language of a "no" vote?

My 7th grader could not understand it by reading, only by patient explanation, and would be unable to successfully explain it to others of his age without well prepared pie charts or other visual aids and notes.

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Scott Wedel 7 months ago

Looks like Scott Ford didn't find the starting sentence of the ballot measure. This was surprisingly hard to find and what he posted was easier to find. The following will precede what Scott F posted above:

“SHALL THE CITY OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS BE OBLIGATED TO A MULTIPLE FISCAL YEAR OBLIGATION BY ALLOCATING, FOR THE NEXT TEN FISCAL YEARS, THE REVENUES FROM THE EXISTING PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS TAX (TAX REVENUES), ON A FISCAL YEAR BASIS, AS FOLLOWS:

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Scott Ford 7 months ago

Hi Scott W - Thanks for the tenacity for finding the beginning portion of the ballot wording. I tried I could not find it.

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John Fielding 7 months ago

An appeal to the Trail alliance: In your campaign to support this ballot measure, please present a clear description of the ten year plan. There are many voters on the fence who will want some of the following questions answered to help them make a decision.

Regarding the grants, to what degree do the projects depend on them? What leveraged grants are high probability, which less likely? Which will be unavailable without a multi-year commitment? What is the minimum financial commitment to be eligible for those?

What will be built first? Is there an order of projects to follow or is that yet to be determined? Exactly how are those determinations made, and what opportunities for input will be available?

How much of the work is by volunteers, including aspects of administration, construction and maintenance? How much is by paid staff or contractors? Is there a commitment to use local contractors and engineers? Where is the money for the campaign being raised?

I'm sure all this has been asked before, so now it is just a matter of getting it out there to the voters. I suggest use of this forum as one venue. As a frequent contributor myself I have gotten many live responses from people I encounter that has given me an idea of just how widely read it is. And, I might add, nearly every one of them strikes me as a regular voter.

As a side note, in the 80's I worked on a project building miles of trails, boardwalk, and bridges through a wetland near Hartford Connecticut, a birders paradise. We used "stone dust" or "crusher fines", properly mixed, placed and compacted over a good base it makes a reasonably durable all weather trail surface and is far less expensive than concrete. It also makes a good base for future concrete or asphalt paving. Recent technological advances have produced geo-grid materials that also can incorporate vegetated surfaces on pathways, easily capable of accommodating light vehicle traffic. I suggest we consider such soft surface techniques for the less traveled extensions of the core trail.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

The land manages have sat down with members of the trails alliance and city officials to lay out a 10 year plan. It is more of an outline of expected final approval dates. The order of these projects is not set in stone and will change as funding opportunities and final approvals are obtained. If all projects are approved as discussed, there will be more projects ready than funds to complete them almost immediately. It would be wise and there is a need for a steering committee that has meetings open to the public to help ensure the money is maximized and the projects that have the best ability to directly meet the original ballot language are focused on as soon as possible.

None of the projects would require grant funding to be completed. If no grant funding or other leveraged funding source (volunteer labor) is utilized, many of the projects will not be completed. The city's grant writer has been involved in this process and has many grants associated with the projects in the tentative ten year plan. Looking at the proposal details showing the estimated costs of each project and now, based on the ballot language, it is easy to see which projects would need more than one years funding to complete. Many of the grants discussed require a minimum 30% match and the grant could fund up to 70% of the costs.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

(1) The Wild Rose trail on Emerald (one of the projects proposed) is fully approved and volunteers are already clearing the corridor to be ready to build when the snow melts next spring. To date, it has been funded entirely outside of the Accommodations Tax money. It is unclear if Accommodations Tax money will help build the tread surface or Routt County Riders volunteers will complete the work. We will be ready either way. (2) Morning Gloria is a second project that is farther down the approval process. It was identified in the 2008 master plan and is just waiting for a final walk through by IMBA's Trails Solutions experts as kind of a final stamp of approval. Our goal with all these natural surface trails projects is to create world class trails and having professionals outside Steamboat give input to local trail building experts gives us the best chance at creating sustainable trails worthy of making the drive or flight to Steamboat specifically to use these trails. Routt County Riders, an IMBA chapter has worked closely with the city in a grant application to cover 62%+ of the cost of the Morning Gloria trail. We have been taking public input in this process since the beginning. We reached out to any organization that we thought would have any interest in these proposed trail projects. We met with many of them numerous times. Last Fall we put up a website that allows the public to easily comment on specific projects. These comments have been used to guide the approval process and help ensure that the best ideas, not only from the dedicated people behind the trails committee but others in the public as well, are utilized. Please feel free to review each project and comment if you see fit on the website www.steamboatspringstrails.com.>

The only project that has gotten to the level of detail of who will be doing what that I know of is the Morning Gloria trail based on the grant application. These are not final but should give you a good idea on how the project is expected to be completed. Volunteer hours: 680 (approx. value $15,500), Youth Corps crews for 11 weeks (approx. cost $73,000), Contractor (TBD through a required bid process) costs for 10 weeks labor & machines (approx. $28,000 & $41,500). The planning has been 99% volunteer to date. The current expected cost to the Accommodations Tax is less than 30% of the preliminary cost outlined in the trails alliance proposal submitted to the Accommodations Tax committee. We hope to know final numbers late fall or early winter when the grant application is approved or denied. In the event the grant is denied, there is another opportunity to apply again in February addressing any of the granting agency's questions or concerns. I am not involved with any campaign so I cannot speak to where money to fund a campaign is or could come form.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

The final design on the core trail extension to legacy ranch is currently being looked at. The option to save money by not using concrete is being considered.

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John Fielding 7 months ago

Thank you Eric, lots of good info there, clearly well organized and executed.

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Steve Lewis 7 months ago

Who will be responsible for maintaining the ballot funded improvements?

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

That is a great question. It was a big part of many of the accommodations tax committee meetings. I want to emphasise that the maintenance cost of these projects a a tiny fraction of any other project that was considered. None the less there will be costs and we are working to fund those outside of the city's general fund. The next few posts will detail some text directly out of the proposal. Some have been fully implemented and some are still in progress.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

"In 2012, the City of Steamboat Springs Parks & Recreation Department started to implement a trail impact fee. The trail impact fee applies to events run on City of Steamboat Springs managed land and is calculated on a per race registrant basis. Based on an estimated number of registrants of trail events that used City land in 2012, this impact fee is expected to generate approximately $10,000.00 in 2013. This estimate assumes a similar number of trail events in 2013 and is expected to be conservative, as trail events have been increasing in popularity."

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

"Routt County Riders, an IMBA Chapter, has partnered with the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation to start a long-term source to fund trail maintenance in and around Steamboat based off the Winter Sports Club’s “Scholarship Day” model. This will start the day before the ski resort opens for the 2013 summer biking season (more details to come this spring). According to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s website, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation has donated over $270,000.00 for 12 Scholarship days."

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

"Local non-profits such as Routt County Riders (RCR), an IMBA Chapter, have been dedicated to biking and trails since 1991. RCR, an IMBA Chapter, has worked hard to develop a sustainable trail maintenance program to help keep our local backcountry trails in excellent shape allowing us to expand our already excellent trail system into one that is unmatched in Colorado. In 2012, the Routt County Riders Trails Crews donated approximately 740 volunteer hours to trail maintenance on local backcountry trails valued at over $17,000.00. In 2013, Routt County Riders, an IMBA Chapter, is budgeting for twice the number of trail days completed in 2012. The value of volunteer hours in 2012 was determined by using the Independent Sector, which lists the 2010 value of a volunteer hour in Colorado at $22.03 (www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time) and adjusting to 2012 based on the inflation from 2010 to 2012 calculated by the US Inflation Calculator ( www.usinflationcalculator.com ). This estimates the value of a 2012 volunteer hour at $23.35/hour."

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

"RCR, an IMBA Chapter, and Emerald Mountain Partnership (EMP) are in the process of finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). A piece of this MOU, that would help fund trail maintenance, works with event organizers that operate events on EMP managed lands to add an online donation system to allow registrants to choose to add money to the maintenance and construction of the local trail systems. The running series has a method for doing this on their race registration page and a similar model will be used with other event organizers. If successful in 2013, a similar MOU may be setup between RCR and the City of Steamboat Springs to cover all City owned Backcountry trails."

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

Other opportunities to take care of the trails on USFS and BLM lands are Cost Share Agreements (USFS) and Assistance Agreements (BLM). Both agreements make it easier to share costs between RCR and the respective land manager. With these agreements in place and more accurate user counts, we expect to be able to better justify increased funding to maintain our local trails. Obviously, RCR is focusing on the backcountry natural surface trails and their maintenance. The total expected cost to maintain the proposed ones on city managed land is only $8,223.22. This is based on the city's 2008 master plan costs and discussions with Parks & Rec. Based on RCR's recent history of maintaining trails built with sustainability in mind, this cost could be as low as $1,265.11, but that would assume RCR's volunteer rate grows at a pace equal to or greater than the pace of new trails.

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cindy constantine 7 months ago

Exactly, Steve. It has been my contention all along that at least 50% of the accommodation tax should be set aside for maintenance of all the amenities we have in town from Rodeo Grounds to Trails to Golf Course, River improvements, etc. that attract the tourists to this town and are publically owned. This will free up sales tax $$ to fund much needed infrastructure improvements like storm drains. Maybe all of Parks and Rec should be funded from accommodation tax. All visitors I know love our parks and public spaces. How about necessities like public restrooms and additional parking downtown for convenience of tourists. Can't the recent flood teach us a lesson up here about funding priorities??

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

Parks & Recs current budget far exceeds the Accommodations Tax. Public Restrooms & parking lots are proposed as part of the Trails Alliance plan. It is not just trails but also trail heads and trail head amenities as these are very important parts of the overall trail experience. Ensuring our trails are built sustainably and re-routing known trouble sections is critical. The damage to SOME of the trails on the front range is staggering. I would bet that most of those that were severely damaged were built in areas with known risks to flooding.

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Collin Kelley 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The Yampa River Park proposed in 2A will become city owned the day the deed is signed.

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John Fielding 7 months ago

It seems perhaps a ballot question must be used to allow funding for maintenance. If I understand it correctly it would amend the original authorization for the tax.

We have acquired and created a vast and wonderful network of parks and trails. We still want more. But we must consider the maintenance factor, it is entirely possible that it will become more than we can reasonably afford. Is there a figure out there for the percentage of our budget spent thus? How much higher could it go before it disallows maintenance of roads, buses, employees in other departments?

Poorly maintained attractions no longer attract.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

I do not believe that the language on the November ballot modifies the original ballot language at all. It actually references that original ballot language. Changing the original ballot language would probably require a separate vote. However, the city does appear to be leaning in that maintenance direction by funding the Haymaker project with up to $300,000 over the next 10 years with this vote in November. I believe it is earmarked to help replace Haymakers sprinkler system which was debated as a capital replacement cost vs maintenance.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

In regards to how the backcountry trails could take away from other city services.... The city's 2013 budget had $26,878,818 in expenses. The Parks & Rec Budget was $2,320,887. Of that, $168,685 was budgeted for open space and trails. Based on the 2008 Steamboat Springs Area Open Space and Trails Master Plan (using the 2008 Budget) breaks it down even further to 47.8% (or $80,594 of the 2013 Budget) towards trails (includes Personnel & Operating expenses). Discussions on the percentage spent on the different types of trails breaks it down even further to the following: Core Trail (70% or $56,416), Secondary Trails (15% or $12,089), Backcountry Trails (15% or $12,089). To put this $12,089 to maintain ALL of the city's backcountry trails into perspective, the new medians that are currently being installed were projected to cost $14,000/year to maintain (Scott W might have an updated number when he references $40,000/year). The cost to install them appears to have gone up substantially so the maintenance of them might have too - http://www.steamboattoday.com/news/2013/sep/10/our-view-good-planning-pays/).

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

Bringing this full circle to answer John's question in relation Trails (our proposal does not include ball fields etc so I left out the Parks), in 2013 the trails expense to the city is approximately 0.29% of the annual budget. The backcountry trails portion of the annual budget is approximately 0.045% of the annual budget. When you factor in the DIRECT revenues the backcountry trails are projected to bring in this year ($10,000) the net cost of backcountry trails to the annual budget in 2013 is approximately 0.0078%. Indirect revenues make investments in backcountry trails a HUGE win for any community that builds a quality, destination worthy trail system. We have a good system now, but we could be world class with the backcontry trails we have proposed adding through the Trails Alliance Accommodations Tax proposal we helped submit.

With the history of this community's support for and use of Open Space and Trails, it would seem that this is a pretty small impact on the community's budget for what this community continues to ask its leadership to not only protect but expand (reviews of past community surveys put Open Space and Trails at the top of all that I have seen or heard about).

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jerry carlton 7 months ago

Hard to find a bathroom downtown! Especially for tourists.

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John Fielding 7 months ago

Thank you again Eric, you are proving yourself a valuable spokesman for the proposal. You have addressed the maintenance question thoroughly, and it is being managed in a manner that can only be applauded. As long as the volunteers and fees keep coming there should be no problem. If they stop coming there will be bigger problems than neglected trails.

How about the Nordic question, will we invest in grooming equipment and labor? It would be a shame to leave those trails disused almost half the year, especially in Ski town USA.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

You are welcome John. I have volunteered much more time than expected in this proposal (It was initially advertised that this process was going to be wrapped up last fall). The extra time has created a better end result, but has stressed the limits for what should be expected of volunteers. Without a core group of volunteers dedicated to all aspects of trails, this proposal would not be where it is today. I have only been involved less than 2 years. Others have been working on trails in Steamboat for more than 20.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

The scope of our proposal was kept to the summer and shoulder season users, but a number of the trails have the potential to accommodate winter uses. Imagine parking at the relatively new parking lot at the HWY40 and Walton Creek Rd intersection and XC skiing out the proposed core trail extension on an easy beginner loop through the city owned Legacy Ranch parcel (grooming it instead of plowing might even save money). Then maybe even take that one step further and allow XC skiing through the gental rolling hills of our city owned Haymaker golf coarse. The modern club house would seem like a great spot to take a break and get a snack. Last winter I am pretty sure ski corp had a groomed route out there to do evening sleigh rides. There are complaints that Howelsen's trails are not beginner enough. This should provide a great network of beginner Nordic trails.

While many of the backcountry trails proposed are not wide enough to groom, you may be surprised how many people are hiking, biking and running on the Emerald backcountry trails even in winter. We'll be trying to do some counting over the winter to quantify those users too.

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Pat West 7 months ago

I would love to know the numbers of summer and winter users on the EMP/Howelson property vs the other Parks and Rec facilities like the Ice rink, and tennis center. Both are subsidized to stay open.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

We are getting some numbers but they are very rough right now and would require some field work to verify the counts are representative of the actual user numbers. The counters are consistent, but not necessarily accurate. The field surveys should be used to factor the counts to better estimate the true number of users (ex. two people walking side by side on the core trail will be counted as one OR someone that stops in front of the counter could be counted more than once).

It is really just a matter of more projects and project planning going on than time in the day. If there was a full time bike/ped coordinator like in most cities that are emphasizing biking and pedestrian friendliness, things should get done much faster.

I am sure we could go over some of the numbers at one of our trails committee meetings this fall. 1st and 3rd Wednesdays. Email trails@routtcountyriders.org to confirm where/when or get on the mailing list.

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Scott Wedel 7 months ago

I'd guess that one of those cameras with motion detection used by hunters to see how many of what go by a certain spot would be an easy way to count how many people on a trail. That would allow someone to review the captured pictures and see how many have people.

Just be sure to have a policy that the pictures are only used to count people and then the images are deleted.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

Scott W, We have considered (and may still purchase or borrow) a few game cameras to help validate the trail counters. There are some advantages to the cameras (less volunteer time in the field). However, they would also add some office time to go through the photos (should be less added than saved).

I think the advantage of having people in the field out weights the small savings in time. The ability to have field volunteers (or paid staff) administer a short survey to those willing trail users should be valuable. That survey sample would likely give us information that could help us better estimate: (1) who is using the amenity (visitor vs local); (2) how often the users use the trails (is it the same 1% using it everyday or does 70-80% of the population use this amenity) (3) what types of trails see the most use (core, secondary, backcountry) (4) Which type of trails are most used by locals & by visitors (.. etc. etc. ..). There are good models for this and we are working with Casey (from the city) and a few professors to ensure the data is collected in a way that it is statistically valid and will help answer some of the main questions we have heard. Done annually or biannually over time should help to show trends that will not only help in planning, but also likely pay for itself many times over through better grant applications.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

I briefly mentioned counting users, but here is a little more. We are doing counts on various trails for short periods as we did not have the funds available to cover all the trails.

We have purchased 16 counters (some count all users {IR counters} and some count bicycles {sensitive to metal passing by}). In addition to the counters we purchased, we partnered with BLM (they had the same system). They provided counters for their land and we are monitoring them and providing them with the data. We hope to work closer with USFS on some of their trails next year.

The city is also counting bicycles in a couple locations (bike path/roads) thanks to a CDOT grant.

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